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Wednesday, February 25, 2004
 
The Ripe Smell Of Old News

There's not much that I miss about the seventies. The clothing was
too tight and itchy, dad was always bitching at us to turn the
thermostat down, and the television programming was generally
atrocious.


One thing I do miss about the seventies, however, is the old
Washington Post. Back then, when the Post busted out
with a shocking story of national import, you could be reasonably
sure that it wasn't over six months old when they broke it. Newsmen
of the seventies realized that stories come with an expiration date,
and should be consumed by the public while still as fresh as
possible.


Those days, unfortunately, are long past; as such
is obviously not the case anymore
:


In March 1999, German intelligence
officials gave the Central Intelligence Agency the first name and
telephone number of
[future 9/11 hijacker] Marwan al-Shehhi,
and asked the Americans to track him.


The name and phone number in the
United Arab Emirates had been obtained by the Germans by monitoring
the telephone of Mohamed Heidar Zammar, an Islamic militant in
Hamburg who was closely linked to the important Qaeda plotters who
ultimately masterminded the Sept. 11 attacks, German officials said.


For those of you not up on your 9/11 trivia, al-Shehhi
was one of the members of the infamous “Hamburg
Cell
,” that closely-knit nucleus of conspirators (led by
the
illustrious Mohammed Atta
) who were ultimately to play the
pivotal role in carrying out the operation to its dark conclusion.


The fact that al-Shehhi had fallen under the suspicion of German
intelligence and the CIA over two years before 9/11 should come as a
shock to all of us. In fact, it was a shock to me ... when I
first read about it over six months ago, in a German
news agency report
:


... in January 1999, Germany's
security agency BfV first noted the name of a man named “Marwan”
after he had placed calls with Haydar Sammar, a German-Syrian living
in Hamburg, who had been under surveillance since 1993.


Two months later, in March 1999,
the BfV passed the information about Marwan on to the CIA, which then
also began keeping surveillance on him, ARD
[German Public
Television] and Stern [a widely read German magazine]
reported.


I read the original report shortly after it was issued last August
13 by Germany's press agency, Deutches Presse-Agentur. It
seems to have not been archived at the site, however; the above clip
was salvaged from an old message board.


The more recent Post story quotes CIA officials as claiming
that the information given to them by the BfV (German
counterintelligence) was simply too vague to be of any use to them —
which is funny, since the earlier DPA story alleges that the
Americans had been given “detailed information” on
al-Shehhi by the Germans.


Besides, even if the data tossed into the CIA's lap was “vague”
— so what? Are we supposed to believe that the CIA — a
spy agency — couldn't do anything with it? Are we
supposed to believe that they did nothing with the information at
all? Not even a few surreptitious photographs and offhand reference
checks?


This is a critical question because, as
the Post puts it, following up on this lead “could have
taken investigators to the core of the Qaeda cell at a time when the
plot was probably in its formative stages.”


We are lead to believe, then, that the
whole thing was yet another massive pre-9/11 bungle — that
rather than getting a bead on this group, the CIA casually ignored
them (because, of all things, it was just too hard), and let
another choice opportunity to Defeat Evil slip by.


Unless, of course, they didn't.


Near the end of the article, the Post
mentions the fact that, while living in Germany, al-Shehhi had once
broken out into a loud, frothing rant in front of a local Hamburg
librarian, whereupon he declared his unrelenting hatred for America,
and then announced that he was going to cause “thousands of
dead” by taking part in the destruction of the World Trade
Center. The Post's own account has this happening sometime in
March of 2000, a little over a year after the spy games outlined
above.


Except that the Post has the date all wrong. During the
trial of accused
9/11 conspirator
Abdelghani Mzoudi last summer, the librarian in
question (Angela Duile) testified that the outburst occurred almost
a year earlier
, in either May or June of 1999. In fact, the
episode couldn't
have happened in 2000
, because by then Fraülein
Duile had quit her job at the library and moved on to other things.


This places al-Shehhi's outburst to
within two months of the period of time when we know he was being
observed by the intelligence community. The Hamburg library was also
known to be a typical haunt of both al-Shehhi and Mohammed Atta
(Duile recalls seeing them there often); it's frankly hard to believe
that al-Shehhi's little tantrum wouldn't get back to the spook
community somehow.


Monday, February 23, 2004
 
A Brief Notice

I'm somewhat involved with another writing project this week, so the posting is liable to be rather light. I'm gonna try to get in a post a day or so, but I'm pretty sure that's not going to at all assurable for about a week.


I'll be back to a more vibrant schedule, no doubt, after next Sunday.


 
Big Gay Hearts

A gay man in Minneapolis by the name of Greg Scanlan was so
emotionally taken with the sight of thousands of same-sex couples
lining up in San Francisco for a chance at marriage that he
anonymously ordered a bouquet of flowers for delivery to any one of
the happy couples. Others quickly followed suit ... and within days,
the “Flowers in the Heartland” movement was born.


Both the Minneapolis StarTribune
and the San Francisco Chronicle have pretty good articles on
the whole thing. One quibble
with the Chronicle article, though:


Topham said the fact that flowers
are coming from pockets of the country typically associated with
anti-gay sentiment
shows that the gay-rights movement is
progressing.


Just that anybody in the
Midwest supports what's going on here — boy, it can only get
better,” Topham said.


Hold the phone there, Surfer Boy. I realize nothing in the country
can compare to the sun-dappled, Gay Nirvana that is your beloved San
Francisco (except, perhaps, uber-lavender Key
West
), but calling the Twin Cities “anti-gay?”


Dude, you
have never
, ever been to Minneapolis,
have you.


Queery.com
(a gay travelogue website) has, though. Here's a snippet of what they
have to say about the Twin Cities' gay scene:


Minneapolis' GLBT Pride Festival
and Parade, held the last weekend in June, is one of the
best-attended such events in the world
, drawing more than 250,000
each year. But summer is a great time to catch all kinds of concerts,
shows, and events. The Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus performs at the
Ted Mann Concert Hall at University of Minnesota; their summer
concert, which in 2002 features the Broadway tunes of Rodgers and
Hammerstein, is set for two nights during Gay Pride weekend.


After New York City, Minneapolis
has the most theater seats per capita in the United States

there are dozens of venues throughout the city, from the famous
Guthrie, the country's largest regional theater, to cutting-edge
spaces like the Hey City and Mixed Blood theaters, which often
present works with lesbian, feminist, or gay themes.


Hmmmm ... a quarter of a million pro-gay partiers annually, a
nationally renowned gay choral group,
and one of the best theater
scenes
in the country.


Jeez, I wonder what it must be like out there in the pro-gay
parts of the country ...


Thursday, February 19, 2004
 
Truth To Power, Revisited

Editor & Publisher dishes up a little reminder to all those mouth-breathers out there who think Senator Kerry was somehow acting treasonously for standing up before Congress in 1972 and dishing out accusations of military atrocities in Vietnam:


The Blade of Toledo, which reported last week that a U.S. Army unit killed unarmed civilians in Vietnam in 1967, has now determined that military investigators will interview former members of the platoon. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumseld asked Les Brownlee, the acting Army secretary, to look into the matter, according to the newspaper in its Sunday edition.


The Blade also quoted Lt. Col Kevin Curry, an Army spokesman, confirming that the interviews were “part of the review and assessment of the original investigation.” Investigators are expected to report their findings next month.


According to the paper, investigators are expected to talk to a former Army medic and former Army journalist who witnessed the atrocities. “I've waited for years to talk to them,” Dennis Stout, 58, the journalist told the paper. “I saw people killed who didn't deserve to die.”


There are plenty of legitimate questions to be asked about a potential Kerry candidacy, but this isn't one of them. After all, his allegations were essentially true; veteran or not, Kerry was under no obligation to help the elites hide that uncouth reality from the delicate ears of the general public.


Rather, the responsibilities inherent to citizenship in any democracy would strongly imply exactly the opposite obligation, don't you think?


Tuesday, February 17, 2004
 
Oy, Canada!

Boy, howdy, are Canadians dorks. Lovable dorks, but dorks,
nonetheless.


No, I'm not talking specifically about the flap
ensuing in the Up North country
involving Conan
O'Brien's plastic dog
and Canada's perpetually snitted
Francophone minority.
However, something in the periphery of the whole debate caught my
American eye.


Josh Freed, a freelance writer granted a column on the subject in
a recent edition of the Montreal Gazette, used his space to
let loose with what is undoubtedly one of the most unintentionally
funny quips by a Canadian
in recent memory:


Given the outcry yesterday, Conan
will probably go home convinced we Quebecers are a humourless winter
people who can't take a joke.


But I wonder how he'd feel if we
let Canada's Insulting Beaver Puppet loose on U.S. TV to yuk
it up about Sept. 11.


Seriously ... you guys have one of those? I take back everything I've
ever said about the CBC — even Red
Green
.


Lemme tellya: if a Canadian-accented, talking beaver puppet
suddenly showed up on American network television and started
cracking wise about September 11, I don't think the quality of her
subject matter would be the ultimate issue:


AMERICAN #1: Man, did you catch
that Canadian beaver puppet on FOX the other night?


AMERICAN #2: Hoo-yeah! Boy, can
you believe the things she was sayin'?


AMERICAN #1: Waitaminit ... she
wuz sayin' stuff, too?!


Considering the fact that the American people are still in Full
Hyperventilation Mode from the trauma of Janet Jackson's “wardrobe
malfunction,” one can only surmise that the presentation of
Freed's Canadian monstrousity would spark a second civil war.


I mean, I know that there are subtle differences between Canadian
and American colloquial
English
, but ...


 
So, When's The Big Parade Gonna Be, Then?

The US has just begun the rotation of 123,000 of its troops out of
Iraq — to be replaced, naturally, by 110,000 fresh soldiers.
Significantly, whereas 1 in 3 of the troops rotating out of Iraq are
National
Guardsmen and Reservists
, almost half of the new crew will
be made up of Dubya's
old “weekend
warrior
” cohorts.


Besides the enormously complicated logistics of it all (it's the
largest
such maneuver
since World War II, as you've no doubt heard by
now), the army's other immediate concern is that some of these
battle-weary guys are going to go all “Fort
Bragg” on the rest of us when they get back.


What does “Fort
Bragg
” mean, you say? Well, that's the army's new, hip term
for what we crude civvies call “Going
Postal
” — which was essentially the late-nineties
colloquialism for “Post-Traumatic
Stress Disorder
.”


... which was how the docs in the VA hospitals of the flower-power
era redefined “Combat
Fatigue
” ... which was the Big One's term for “Shell
Shock
.”


... which was how the jaded vets of the War to End
All Wars
felt once they figured out that it was nothing of the sort.


Before that, the science of psychology was largely undiscovered
country, meaning that we didn't have any fancy words to describe the
war-addled Boo Radleys of the world. Believe it or not, “cowardice
was the term most often bandied about in those primitive days.


Fortunately, we live in a futuristic age of psychological wonders,
complete with super-science gadgetry, flying cars, colonies on the
moon, and the like. We may not have figured out how to end war yet,
but we do know what to do with the detritus ... and that's to keep
'em the Hell away from the rest of us until they can get their damned
heads screwed back on straight.


To this end, a (literal) army of mental health professionals is
urgently mustering here on our shores. Their purpose: to provide that
crucial first line of quarantine between
Us and Them
:


A virtual battalion of chaplains,
social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, domestic and
child-abuse counsellors, financial advisers and others are on tap to
embrace the combat-weary human wave about to hit America's shores.
There are websites, pamphlets, hotlines and support groups. Over 400
“family readiness centres” are open. At Fort Campbell,
Kentucky, where more than 18,000 soldiers are due home in coming
months, reunion seminars are being run for spouses.


Supported, no doubt, by enough
psychotropic medications to pacify an army.


Thursday, February 12, 2004
 
Past Tense, Imperfect

Back in that politically prehistoric era known as the early
1970's, the abortion debate wasn't framed so much as a woman's “right
to choose
” as it was her “right
to privacy
.” In this historically smudged age in which we
now live, that fact has become something of a quaint obscurity, about
as meaningful to us as an afternoon paging through old family
scrapbooks with great-grandma Ruthie.


Well, get ready to relive a blast from the past, ye Children of
the Brave New Future. There's a new
abortion law in town
, you know — and while it may be currently
held up in our nation's maze-like court system, Ashcroft's Justice
Department is keen on at least exploiting the spirit of it, all the
way from his sterile labs in Quantico straight
on through to your bedroom keyhole
:


The Justice Department is demanding
that at least six hospitals in New York City, Philadelphia and
elsewhere turn over hundreds of patient medical records on
certain abortions performed there.


Lawyers for the department say they
need the records to defend a new law that prohibits what opponents
call partial-birth abortions. A group of doctors at hospitals
nationwide have challenged the law, enacted last November, arguing
that it bars them from performing medically needed abortions.


The department wants to examine the
medical histories for what could amount to dozens of the doctors'
patients in the last three years to determine, in part, whether the
procedure, known medically as intact dilation and extraction, was in
fact medically necessary, government lawyers said.


Get that? The Feds want to snatch a peek at the very personal
medical records of hundreds of women, on the off chance that a
few dozen of them may have taken part in a medical procedure these
guys don't particularly like — and which was, needless to say,
a totally
legal option
for the women at the time.


New York is not alone. The Feds have inundated the country with
wave
after wave
of subpoenas in the past few days, all seeking out the same
information. You see, the medical records in question are all from
the files of doctors who are challenging the new law; the Feds want
to make sure that the doctors in question have actually performed the
procedure — and if so, then why.


As if that makes any difference.


And boys, don't think that your magic chromosome is going to be
getting you off any easier on this. The Justice Department has cooked
up a little co-ed surprise for you ... just in case you have any of
airy-fairy privacy preconceptions that
needed deflating
:


The department said in its
unsuccessful effort to enforce the Northwestern subpoena
[a
separate but related case — ed.] that the demand for records
did not “intrude on any significant privacy interest of the
hospital's patients” because the names and other identifiable
information would be deleted.


Citing federal case law, the
department said in a brief that “there is no federal common
law” protecting physician-patient privilege. In light of
“modern medical practice” and the growth of third-party
insurers, it said, “individuals no longer possess a reasonable
expectation that their histories will remain completely
confidential.”


Translation: “Screw you, you
dumbass proles! You done left that barn door wide open, and we're
a-comin' on in, whether you like it or not!”


“Oh, and it's all the insurance companies' fault, by the way
...”


As if that should make us feel any
better about it.


 
Sad Sack & Hanoi Jane

As the whole hullabaloo about Bush's Guard Service (or lack
thereof) continues to unfold, supporters of the President have been
hard pressed to come up with any solid counterargument in his
defense. The response has been a weak and murky twofold strategy: accusing the
accusers of “mudslinging,” and slinging a little mud themselves.


Both strategies were evident at Tuesday's press conference. The
administration's official response (“stop slinging mud at us!”)
was conveyed ad nauseum by Press Secretary Scott McClellan,
while the chosen tactic of its talk radio/winger media shock troops
(“here's
mud back atcha, sucka!
”) was represented
by this little vignette in the transcript
:


RANDOM WINGER MEDIA HACK:
Since there have been so many questions about what the President was
doing over 30 years ago, what is it that he did after his honorable
discharge from the National Guard? Did he make speeches alongside
Jane Fonda, denouncing America's racist war in Vietnam? Did he
testify before Congress that American troops committed war crimes in
Vietnam?
And did he throw somebody else's medals at the White
House to protest a war America was still fighting? What was he doing
after he was honorably discharged?


MR. McCLELLAN: We've already
commented on some of his views relating back to that period the other
day. And, obviously, this was a time period also when he was going to
get his MBA at Harvard. But the President was certainly proud to
serve in the National Guard.


For the record, the President's chief activities in the years
immediately after his (early) release from the National Guard were:
sleeping
through Harvard Business School
, drinking
himself into a stupor
, and wasting
other people's money
through ruinous
business arrangements
. It is true that none of this involved war
protesting; but it was 1974 by the time he mustered out, and Dubya
would have been more than a little behind the curve if he'd tried. At
any rate, the nation was already deeply
engrossed
with other critical
business
by that time, anyway.


Meanwhile, back in the present, the right wing is trying to work the rest of the nation
into a tizzy over the fact that somebody has uncovered a dusty
photograph of Hanoi
Jane
speaking at an antiwar rally, with John Kerry lurking
somewhere in the background. There is also renewed interest in
testimony
Kerry made before Congress
outlining atrocities committed by
American soldiers in Vietnam. CNN, for its part, bit on the very
issue this morning:


BILL HEMMER: Let's kick this
off with Jane Fonda on CNN yesterday. Listen to what she said about
that photo surfacing yesterday ...


JANE FONDA, ACTIVIST: I'm
tired of the government lying. I'm tired of people pulling out —
desperately pulling out anything they can do to hurt another
candidate, and I think that the American people feel that way, too. This is a — it's a bunch of hogwash.


HEMMER: Jane Fonda with Kyra
Phillips yesterday afternoon here on CNN. Cliff, start us off —
Hogwash?


CLIFF MAY [former
RNC Communications Director]
: Well, I
think there is a lot of silliness and a lot of mud slinging going on.

Certainly the National Guard charges are that. I think the fact that
he was at a rally with Jane Fonda doesn't tell you much. I think he
does need to address at some point some of the views he held back in.
He went before the Senate in 1971, and he said his fellow veterans
were routinely committing atrocities
, were acting like Genghis
Khan, were acting like terrorists in Vietnam. I assume he doesn't
believe that anymore, and I think he should address that. He also
said at one point that he thought the CIA should be eliminated. I'm
sure he doesn't believe that any longer.


Nicely done, Cliff! See how he neatly folds both lines of defense
into a single, semi-coherent whole? He clucks his tongue at all the
“mud slinging going on” regarding Bush's National Guard
duty ... takes a deep breath ... and then pitches off a big ol' slog
of mud at John Kerry — as if Kerry's testimony in 1971 has
anything to do with the price of coke in Tijuana in 1972.


At least he's willing admit what “hogwash” the whole
Jane Fonda association is. Seriously, fellas, using gnarly old Hanoi
Jane
as a way to tar a Democrat in this day and age is a pretty
desperate tactic, considering that you'd have to sit down and explain
to about half of the electorate exactly who
the Hell Jane Fonda was
in the first place.


As for Kerry's testimony
before Congress in 1971
, he said all those things back then
because
they were true
. With each passing year, we learn a little
more
about exactly how unnervingly
truthful his statements were
. People like Cliff May may not like
to admit that these
things went on
, but that doesn't make them any less a part of the
historical
record
.


If Kerry did take up May's advice and denounce his 1971 statements
today, then he'd be a hypocrite — a politically expedient one,
but a hypocrite nonetheless.


Wednesday, February 11, 2004
 
Power Corrupts

Way back in the 1970's, we had people in this part of the country
called “power
line protesters.
” This isn't a euphemism or anything; it
was what they actually were.


Back then, the power companies were stringing up mile after mile
of high-tension power lines. Just like the old railroad right-of-ways
from the frontier days, this required long segments of land to be
appropriated.


Since this country is still (acreage-wise) vastly rural, most of
the people
being inconvenienced
by all this were farmers. But some of the
farmers weren't just annoyed by the loss of their land; it was the
juice flowing through those power lines
that got their Oshkoshes
all in a tangle.


There was ... somethin',
they claimed. Somethin'
about them power lines just plain sickened up anything what spent too
long near 'em. Nothing prospered near them power lines, it was
claimed. It wasn't just the livestock, neither; a few of the locals
themselves complained of mysterious and chronic afflictions ... even
cancer
.


Sheesh, stupid farmers. What a bunch of ignorant
hypochondriacs
, right?


Well
...


Based on experiments involving rats
and ozone, scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
have identified a chemical reaction that may explain higher rates of
illness observed among some people exposed to strong electromagnetic
fields such as those produced by high-voltage power lines.


The findings may also bode ill for
those “negative-ion” air fresheners so popular as
health-inducing gizmos for home and office.


Apparently, when large amounts of grounded water are exposed to
high levels of electromagnetic radiation, the result is a dramatic
jump in the levels of ozone gas within the vicinity. Ozone, once
thought to have mild health benefits, is actually pretty
damaging
to biological systems.


From a biochemical standpoint, we animals are little more than
self-propelled buckets of grounded water. What do you think happens
we're placed in close proximity to an EM
generator
?


In the experiment, published in the
current issue of the journal “Bioelectromagnetics,” three
rats were exposed in close proximity to a device producing 10
kilovolts – about what negative-ion air fresheners produce.


The ambient level of ozone in the
air before the device was turned on was about 10-20 parts per billion
(ppb).


When the electrical device was
switched on, Goheen and his colleagues reported ozone levels spiked
as high as 200 ppb – about twice the “chronic”
level allowed by federal regulators in a workplace setting.


Public health experts believe
immediate damage or acute health effects from a single exposure to
ozone won't occur until the concentration reaches about 5,000 ppb.


The scientists conducting the experiment also pointed out that you
would have to be standing pretty close to the generator in order to
achieve the same results yourself. Remember: your mom always warned
you not to sit too
close to the television
, right?


This is also only one experiment, involving a very small control
group; there's no need to fly off the handle yet and start taking a
sledgehammer to anything with an EM signature.


But it is interesting to find out, after all these years, that
those farmers may have been on to something after all.


Tuesday, February 10, 2004
 
Press Secretary Spontaneously Combusts!

If you have the time to do it, click on over to whitehouse.gov
and watch Scott McClellan's press conference accompanying the
administration's release of Bush's National Guard payroll records.


I swear, it's so good, it's wonk porn; you're gonna need a cigarette by the time it's all over.


The press corps is clearly in a very, very irritated mood —
one might even go so far as to call them angry. Within the first few
minutes of the session, one reporter is already taking McClellan to
task with a derisive, “I asked a simple question. How about
a simple answer?!”


And for at least the first quarter of the press conference,
75% of the time McClellan's stock answer is, almost verbatim,
the same statement: “These documents clearly show that the President
fulfilled his duties during the time period,” and “You
only get paid for the time you serve.” Check it out for
yourself — heck, try to count the number of times he does it, if you can.


After many, many long minutes of this bloodbath, McClellan finally steers the reporters to a different subject,
only to have them jump right into some decidedly pointed questions regarding his own personal role in the
Valerie Plame Affair.
Needless to say, poor Scott is reduced to a sad, gibbering, smoking ruin by the
end of the conference.


One last note: some of the reporters are very interested in
the fact that the payroll records do not include any
information regarding the period from April 16 to October 28, 1972.


 
Seeing Red

The expansion of NATO right up to the frontiers of Mother Russia
has our former Comintern adversaries in a decidedly
cantankerous mood
. Or maybe its just that the whole thing reminds
them that their once mighty counterweight (the late, unlamented Warsaw
Pact) no longer exists:


Russia may abandon a security
treaty limiting conventional weapons and troop deployments in Europe,
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said at an international security
conference in Munich on Monday, unless it is changed to rule out NATO
forces in the Baltic states.


Ivanov protested that the
Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, negotiated in the 1980s between
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Pact, does not
include Baltic countries, which are scheduled to become NATO members
in April.


With NATO enlargement, they
start operating in the zone of vitally important interests of our
country,” Ivanov said, The Associated Press reported. “They
should — in deed, not only in words — take into account
Russian concerns.”


Ivanov's crankiness is, if a bit overboard, at least
understandible. With the admission of the three Baltic States into
the alliance, NATO will for the first time be encroaching upon
territory that was once part of the old
Soviet Union
. It will also be the first time that NATO
jurisdiction is extended over countries with significant
populations of ethnic Russians
— not to mention the fact
that it could theoretically put American Marines within a day's march
of St.
Petersburg
.


The Baltic states have every right to conduct
their own
independent foreign policy. But we'd be hitting
the roof, too, if we thought for a minute that the Russians were negotiating to
establish bases with secessionist governments in North Carolina,
Tennessee, and Virginia.


 
Copy Techs Gone Wild!

Don't be terribly shocked if you hear a report in the coming weeks
of a horrific photocopying accident somewhere in the bowels of the
White House.


Not that you should expect fowl play to be involved in any of
this. It's just that the administration's copy technicians must be
cranking out paperwork at way past the red line right now, what with
all the increasingly
urgent demands
— from all the
increasingly
frustrated fact-finding
groups
— calling out for this or that piece of potentially
embarrassing documentary evidence.


Why, just this morning, the long-suffering 9/11 commission
reissued its threat to subpoena the White House for the
records it says it needs
:


Members of the independent
commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks warned the
White House on Monday that it could face a politically damaging
subpoena this week if it refused to turn over information from the
highly classified Oval Office intelligence reports given to President
Bush before 9/11.


The panel's chairman, Thomas H.
Kean, a Republican and the former governor of New Jersey, said
through a spokesman that he was hopeful an agreement would be worked
out before the commission's next meeting, on Tuesday. Commission
officials said that negotiations continued throughout the day on
Monday and into the evening with the office of Alberto R. Gonzales,
the White House counsel.


But other members of the commission
said that without an immediate resolution, they would call for a vote
on Tuesday on issuing a subpoena to the White House for access to
information in the documents. The papers are known as the President's
Daily Brief
, the intelligence summary prepared each morning for
Mr. Bush by the Central Intelligence Agency.


A few of the people in the commission have been allowed to see the
briefs, but cannot discuss the contents with any of the other
members, or show them any notes they may have made about them.


Bush is using the time-worn
dodge
of “executive privilege” to keep the lid
clamped down on these. All the panelists seem to be of the opinion,
however, that they are crucial to the investigation, and are in an
increasingly hyperventilative state over the obsessive secrecy
surrounding them.


For the administration's part, the privilege claim might sound
more solid — if they hadn't already let Bob Woodward rifle
through a fistful of them
in order to help document his
fawning pro-Bush
9/11 hagiography
.


As for the rest of us, we do know the title, if
not the specific contents
, of at least one of those reports. It
was the one read by Bush on August 6, 2001 and entitled: “Bin
Laden determined to Strike the
United States in U.S.


Getting the Bush crew to admit
that title into the Bibliography of the Republic was like
pulling teeth — and even then, the last two words were
excised
from the public version, despite
plenty of evidence
to the contrary.


The omission is both
deliberate and crucial; try reading the title once without the
last two words, and the difference is obvious.


 
The Paper Trail

“If you can find 'em, their all yours, chump.”


That was pretty much how the President put it the other day, when
he was asked by Tim Russert during his Meet
the Press
interview
as to whether or not there was any
concrete proof to support his National Guard service claims.


Of course Dubya's people
would release the information, if it exists. And of course
anybody can have a look at it, if it's still around. Oh, and of
course
you realize that they released all that stuff back in 2000
— you know, the stuff that doesn't exist.


The Pentagon has finally decided to get to the heart of the matter
themselves. According to today's Washington Post, they're
going to make a game attempt at taking
Bush up on his offer
:


The Defense Department has
requested that President Bush's payroll records from his service in
the National Guard be sent to Washington from a DOD archive in
Colorado, to ascertain whether they can be released to news
organizations and public interest groups that have formally requested
them in recent days, according to DOD officials.


The Bush people intend to have the payroll records into
the memepool
by the end of the day; looks like that “torn
document
” may finally be getting some company, eh?


During the 2000 campaign, you remember, it was that strategically
mangled document which performed quite a bit of heavy lifting for the
salvation of Bush's military reputation. Here it is, almost four
years later, and an uncrippled
version of it
has finally shown up:


President Bush received credit for
attending Air National Guard drills in the fall of 1972 and spring of
1973 -- a period when his commanders have said he did not appear for
duty at bases in Montgomery, Ala., and Houston -- according to two
new documents obtained by the
[Boston] Globe.


The personnel records, covering
Bush's Guard service between May 1972 and May 1973, constitute the
first evidence that Bush appeared for any duty during the first 11
months of that 12-month period. Bush is recorded as having served the
minimum number of days expected of Guard members in that 12 months of
service time.


It turns out a guy named Bob
Fertik
(co-founder of the highly partisan democrats.com
website) had been in possession of the document for years — he
had acquired it as part of a massive FOIA request on Bush back in
2000. The first person to cover this new development was widely-read
blogger CalPundit; his most recent post on the ongoing
developments is here.


Fertik's revelation just takes things
in a curiouser direction. While the untorn document does
confirm the Bush camp's protestations of time made up, it opens up a
whole new can of worms for the President by exposing to the world how
he made it up.


This was apparently done at
neither of the Guard units that he claims (Alabama or Texas); rather,
it was with a problematic unit of the Reserves known as the “ARF.”
Here, once again, is CalPundit's
take on what that means
:


ARF is a “paper unit”
based in Denver that requires no drills and no attendance. For active
guard members it is disciplinary because ARF members can
theoretically be called up for active duty in the regular military,
although this obviously never happened to George Bush.


To make a long story short, Bush
apparently blew off drills beginning in May 1972, failed to show up
for his physical, and was then grounded and transferred to ARF as a
disciplinary measure. He didn't return to his original Texas Guard
unit and cram in 36 days of active duty in 1973 — as Time
magazine and others continue to assert based on a mistaken
interpretation of Bush's 1973-74 ARF record — but rather
accumulated only ARF points during that period. In fact, it's unclear
even what the points on the ARF record are for, but what is clear is
that Bush's official records from Texas show no actual duty after May
1972 ...


As this oft-referenced
document
points out, Lt. George W. Bush was finally suspended
from flying status on September 29, 1972, for failing to show up for
his required physical examination. The now-confirmed “torn
document” shows him accumulating ARF points exactly one month
later.


So, here's the short version of the
story so far: Dubya, after putting in years of training and service
with the Texas National Guard, suddenly disappears in May, 1972. On
paper, he spends the next five months or so in some grey area between
the Alabama and Texas National Guards. In reality, however, no one
can actually remember seeing him in any of these units during the
time in question. When he finally does get drummed out of bed to show
up for duty, it's with some “Sweathog”-esque disciplinary
wing of the military.


This does mean that Bush, as he once
put it, “fulfilled” his “obligation” —
technically. But while technically true, the record bears not
even a passing resemblance to the Heroic Knight of the Air career he
and his sycophants love to trumpet.


Most critically, it does nothing at all to document the six-month
void in his life from May to September 1972. Odds are, this is an
intentional
omission
, and we may never be allowed to nail down exactly what
that extremely
sensitive
period of his life was all about. It's doubtful the
upcoming release of his pay stubs will help much, either.


Sunday, February 08, 2004
 
Rumsfeld's Gravest Sin?

In the middle of that Rolling Stone interview I mentioned earlier (see the previous post), author Kevin Phillips adds one more brick of weirdness to the Bush family Pyramid of Discordia:


“Donald Rumsfeld didn't like him [George H.W. Bush], either — he and a lot of others in the Ford administration thought Bush was a lightweight. In one of Rumsfeld's greatest miscalculations, he put Bush in charge of the CIA, thinking that would ice Bush's political future ...”


Waitaminit ... Hold the phone there, Kev: You mean to tell me that Rummy hired Poppy?!


Why do people continue to give this man so much responsibility?!


You might be wondering, “Ummm ... Which guy does he mean by that last statement? Bush or Rumsfeld?”


To which the answer, obviously, is “yes.”


 
The Rise Of The Banana Republican

If making money is your
first priority, then there's a temptation to cheat the customer, a
temptation to pay your employees too little, or not share the
benefits with them. A corporation is a privileged form of
organization and it should be involved in more than making money.”



  • Elmer L.
    Andersen
    , CEO (Ret.) H.B. Fuller Co., Governor of Minnesota
    (1960-62), Newspaper Owner, and lifelong Republican.



This country used to produce
some pretty
good Republicans
. I don't know how often I would have voted for any of them, but I could at least be reasonably assured that their ideology
had come
to them honestly
, and not just as some pathetically transparent
rationalization for their own personal greed.


The governor was adamant he
was not on an airplane with a suitcase full of cash. He's unaware of
any plane he was on with luggage on it full of cash.”



  • Cory
    Tilley
    (2002), Florida Governor Jeb Bush's Campaign Manager



The Bush family
has never made any
attempt
to separate
their ideology
from the politics of personal
gain
; in fact, personal
gain
seems to be
their ideology
. Perhaps they justify it by imagining themselves
as the ultimate development of the American mythological ideal of the
rugged
individualist
. Perhaps they honestly believe that their interests
and those of the country are always the same (L'etat,
c'est moi!
).


To be frank, whatever justifications they may conjure up don't
really matter; does anybody honestly doubt that they would change
their ways if they were to learn otherwise?


Kevin Phillips — lifelong Republican, former Nixon official,
author of 1969's The
Emerging Republican Majority
, and architect of the Republican
Party's hugely successful “southern strategy” — has
written
the book
on the Bush family in American politics. I haven't read
his book yet (I intend to), but until I get my hands on it, I can
content myself with this Rolling Stone interview in which the man —
to put it mildly — really takes the Bushes
to task
:


They have made the presidency into
an office infused with an almost hereditary dishonesty. There's so
much lying and secrecy and corruption to it. Just look at the way
Neil
and Jeb
and Marvin
and George W.
have earned their livings, with all these parasitic operations:
profiting from their political connections, cashing in on favors from
big corporations and other governments. It's a convergence of
arrogance — the sense that you don't have to pay attention to
democratic values. It's happening again with Halliburton.
They can't help but let their old cronies in there to make buckets of
money off the war.


Liberal economist (and veteran Bush finger-pointer) Paul Krugman
has a review of Phillip's book in a recent
issue
of the New York Review of Books. The book, as he
describes it, is quite a read. Nobody writes as venomously as one who
has seen something he believes in become perverted by another;
Phillips is clearly
one of those people
:


All in all, if presidential family
connections were theme parks, Bush World would be a sight to behold.
Mideast banks tied to the CIA would crowd alongside Florida S&Ls
that once laundered money for the Nicaraguan contras. Dozens of oil
wells would run eternally without finding oil, thanks to periodic
cash deposits by old men wearing Reagan-Bush buttons and smoking
twenty-dollar cigars. Visitors to “Prescott Bush's Tokyo”
could try to make an investment deal without falling into the
clutches of the yakuza....


And no — to outflank the
still-legion ranks of the Bush apologists out there — other
American political families weren't nearly this bad.


Friday, February 06, 2004
 
Naming Names

“No one knows what the hell is going on, because the administration people are all terrified and the lawyers aren't sharing anything with each other either.”


Anonymous & Freaked Out Washington Insider


The investigation into who “outed” CIA operative Valerie Plame keeps getting hotter and hotter. This is probably a factor of everything else that is swirling around the White House of late; once an administration suffers a memeshift from trustworthy to duplicitous, everything scurrying around under the carpet gets vacuumed up and subjected to excruciating re-examination.


Such a shift is finally beginning to happen to this crew. Consider the possibility, for instance, that the Washington Times (the Loyalist paper for the Right) has begun to turn on them. Via their weekly Insight magazine, they claim to have a scoop on the Plame Affair, and they're fingering people by name to prove it:


Federal law-enforcement officials said that they have developed hard evidence of possible criminal misconduct by two employees of Vice President Dick Cheney's office related to the unlawful exposure of a CIA officer's identity last year. The investigation, which is continuing, could lead to indictments, a Justice Department official said.


According to these sources, John Hannah and Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, were the two Cheney employees. “We believe that Hannah was the major player in this,” one federal law-enforcement officer said. Calls to the vice president's office were not returned, nor did Hannah and Libby return calls.


The strategy of the FBI is to make clear to Hannah “that he faces a real possibility of doing jail time” as a way to pressure him to name superiors, one federal law-enforcement official said.


Hmmmm ... did that article just say superiors — as in plural? Libby is just one guy, isn't he? I mean, they all look and act like clones of one another, but that's just a gimmick of theirs, right?


Sounds like Justice is trying to unravel a criminal conspiracy to me.


Here's an excellent commentary on exactly how debilitating such a conjugation of circumstances could be to the administration.


 
Tangled Up Marionettes

The question is Bush's AWOL status. The world wants to know: was
he or wasn't he?


Loyal mascot of the right NewsMax
immediately jumps to the fore and shouts, “no, he wasn't!”


Not to be deterred, fellow right-wing outlet World
Net Daily
puffs up its chest and yells back “oh yes, he
was!”


My, my, my ... dueling nutballs. The world sure has become a
complicated, shades-of-grey kinda place for hard-right dittoheads
these days — and you know how much those guys hate
ambiguity.


Still, fellas, y'gotta choose or lose: which far-right pseudo-news
site are you going to believe? Is it gonna be those wacky head cases
over at your
trusty NewsMax outlet
?...


... in the months before the 2000
presidential election, the New York Times pretty much
demolished this Democratic Party urban legend, a myth that first
surfaced in its sister paper, the Boston Globe.


...


A document in Mr. Bush's
military records,” the paper said, “showed credit for
four days of duty ending Nov. 29 and for eight days ending Dec. 14,
1972, and, after he moved back to Houston, on dates in January, April
and May.”


... or, that equally bonkers squad of winger-head flying monkeys
frothing away over at your other favorite site, World
Net Daily
?


In George Bush's Guard service, in
other words, the 12 months from May 1972 to May 1973 are a black
hole. No record of his showing up for duty, period. Where was he?


Americans deserve to know, and not
just for political reasons. According to the Uniform Code of Military
Justice, a person who is AWOL for more than 30 days is guilty of
desertion, with a maximum punishment of death. There is no statute of
limitations.


The head reels; the Right has lost its marching orders! If ideology
cannot be the right wing's guide to serenity, will they then be
forced to fall back on (gulp!) actual facts?


And for that matter, NewsMax does have the facts they like,
but they're culled directly from the hated New York Times!
What's a winger to do?!


Well, the Retentive Ones can rest easy. The Times is quite
a bit off the mark on this one. Their
“debunking” of the Globe's
2000 AWOL story
is based almost entirely on the document
mentioned in the second NewsMax paragraph, above.


At first glance, that seems pretty ironclad, doesn't it? It's
physical proof — official paperwork — how can you beat
that? Except that ... well ... here's what the Washington
Post
had to say about the document at the time
:


The Bush campaign points to a torn
piece of paper in his Guard records, a statement of points Bush
apparently earned in 1972-73, although most of the dates and
Bush's name except for the “W” have been torn off
.


According to the torn Air Reserve
Forces sheet, Bush continued to compile service credits after
returning to Houston, winding up his fifth year with 56 points, six
above the minimum needed for retention. However, Bush's annual
effectiveness report, signed by two superiors, says “Lt.
Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of the
report
,” May 1, 1972, to April 30, 1973.


Yes, you read that right. When the media asked for proof, the Bush
campaign presented them with a
torn piece of paper
— a document so mangled that the
only thing provable on it was that someone with the middle initial
“W” showed up from time to time.


Incredibly, the New York Times bought that piece of crap;
even while the second document (which is universally accepted as
genuine) unreservedly contradicts the implications of the first.


Y'know, my dad's middle initial is “W,” and he's about
the right age to be serving in the National Guard in '72. I say it
was him on that form. Whaddaya say to that, George?


Of course, pops was nowhere near any Guard Station at the time;
but then again, neither was Dubya, either.


 
He's One Very Sorry Mad Scientist

“KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!”


• James T. Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan


Hey everybody! Hop into the way-back machine with me for a trip ...


... bear with me for a moment as I crank the dial all the way
back to ... ah, here we are: October, 1991.


Only two short months earlier, Saddam Hussein's Iraq had invaded
Kuwait, sparking off a confrontation with the United States which
will eventually lead to war. That war, while inevitable to everybody
at the time, was still three months into the future.


It's October, 1991; do
you know where your Pakistani nuclear scientist is
?


[Abdul Qadeer] Khan's alleged offer was described
in an October 1990 memo by Iraq's intelligence service, the
Mukhabarat. According to a U.N. translation of the document obtained
by the institute, a man identified as Malik relayed an offer from
Khan to help Iraq in making enriched uranium and nuclear weapons. "He
is prepared to give us project designs for a nuclear bomb
,"
the Iraqi memo states, referring to Khan.


The “Malik” mentioned in the document might be a reference to Brigadier (ret.) Sajawal Khan Malik, who was at the time head of maintenance and general services for Khan's lab. He was among the five persons rounded up for “debriefing” around the same time that Khan was arrested.


The Iraqis were initially
suspicious, thinking the offer was a scam, said David Albright,
president of the institute and co-author of the report with Corey
Hinderstein. Still, Iraqi officials decided to seek samples from the
middleman, the documents show. No such samples were delivered, the
institute's report says, and three months later the outbreak of war
essentially ended Iraq's nuclear program.


Well, there's some good news, citizens! Khan only offered them his “Junior
Whiz-Kid Atomic Bomb Making Kit” before the first Gulf
War. As
far as we know
, he did not make the same offer any time
after. You can rest easy tonight, safe in the knowledge that no UN Security Council Resolutions were violated in the commission of this atrocity.


As
far as we know
.


On the other hand, Mr. Khan is really,
really sorry
for all the atomic mischief he might have caused. He
went on Pakistani national television the other day to tell them so.


And that's all that Pakistan needed to hear. After declaring that
Khan was “still
my hero
,” Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announced to
a breathless nation of suicide
bombing
, nuclear
powered monomaniacs
that Khan would not face any charges for his
many crimes against civilization. Not even a fine.


Let
him live with his money
,” was how Musharraf put it.


Sure, why not? Let him die with it, too — even take it with
him, for all I care. When he lays his head down on that gigantic
money pile of his some day and finally draws his last, ragged breath,
it'd almost be worth the trip to Hell just to watch him try and bribe
the Devil with it.


Thursday, February 05, 2004
 
Mutual Assured Destruction

I'll admit, the prospect John Kerry winning the Democratic
nomination is not something for which I can muster much enthusiasm.
Even so, the guy is light-years ahead of the blockhead currently
encamped in the White House.


Who knows? The guy may grow on me, too. I've already discovered at
least one aspect of the campaign that I
find promising
:


The Kerry campaign, which includes
several veterans of the Dukakis campaign, says it will not make the
mistakes of 1988, when Mr. Dukakis was widely seen as too passive in
the face of the attacks. “We welcome a debate with the likes of
Ed Gillespie, Karl Rove and this White House about who's out of sync
with Main Street America,” said David Wade, a Kerry spokesman.


Their tired old G.O.P.
attack dog just won't hunt,” Mr. Wade said, adding that
Republicans would be running against “a Democrat who fought for
his country in war, put criminals behind bars as a prosecutor, stood
up for balanced budgets in the Senate,” and “kept faith
with America's veterans.”


Another Kerry adviser was more
blunt. “This is not the Dukakis campaign,” the
adviser said. “We're not going to take it. And if they're going
to come at us with stuff, whatever that stuff may be, if it goes
to a place where the '88 campaign did, then everything is on the
table. Everything
.”


Damn straight. The most maddening thing about the whole Dukakis
debacle was listening to George
Bush 1.0 and his minions snarl out wave after wave
of mean little
half-truths,
lies
, and grade-school
name-calling
; all the while Dukakis just stood there blinking
stupidly and smiling wanly, like the stuff didn't even exist.


Of course it did. Ignoring
the rising pile of excrement
poured on him didn't make any of it
go away, nor did it make him look any better than Bush in
the electorate's eyes
. Dukakis didn't come off like some serene
Boddhisattva for his troubles so much as an effete little rag toy —
and an idiot, to boot.


And at any rate, people may say they adore a Boddhisattva,
but they sure as hell wouldn't vote for one.


The Democrats don't have to get nasty, of course. Rather,
by dangling the threat above the Bush campaign's collective heads,
they can not-so-subtly remind them that the days when they could rely
on a lollypop licking, shortpants wearing, curly-locked, doe-eyed,
compliant Democrat are now behind them.


It
probably won't actually deter them any
; but at least then we'll
get to see what happens when a Democrat actually returns fire. It's
not like they don't have any ammo, after all.


 
Wesley Clark, The Reluctant Suicide Bomber

Has it already been two weeks since crazed
lib'rul supervillain
Michael Moore strapped his bomb to Wesley
Clark's chest and tossed the
Good General
headlong into the path of the Bush reelection
juggernaut?


Sure, Clark
fumbled with the trigger a little bit
, but in the end it looks
like he managed to inflict
a serious hit
– maybe even blow off a tread or two. How
else can one explain the sudden manic flurry of damage
control swirling around it
?


The White House, the Republican
Party and the Bush-Cheney campaign mounted a choreographed defense
yesterday of President Bush's attendance record in the National Guard
and denounced Democrats for raising questions about his service.


The messages marked the first time
that all the parts of Bush's 2004 political machine have collaborated
on a simultaneous line of attack, and reflected his advisers'
mounting concern about an issue that they hoped had been put to rest
after his election in 2000.


Wow. They're choreographing and everything. I take this to
mean that no effort will be spared ... no rock unturned ... to set
aright this trembling,
listing, and sparking ship of state
, right?


Bush's aides did not release new
information to clear up questions about a one-year gap in the public
record of Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard during the
Vietnam War. Bush and his aides have said he reported to an Alabama
unit during the period, from May 1972 to May 1973.


Oh, come on, guys! Some of you have
been hanging out with Dubya for over a decade. There must be
something
you can fish out
that will prove to an expectant American people
what a pack of steaming lies all this is, eh?


 
Defenders Of The Crown

Today's New York Times article on the suddenly urgent AWOL
controversy is surprisingly friendly to the President's side ...
compared to, say, the Washington
Post's
. It mentions the fact, for instance, that Bush may
have “made
up
” some of his time after turning up later in the year
(while not explaining, of course, where in God's creation the guy was
for the entire seven months previous).


The Times also takes pains to insure us that the whole
thing is not really a political issue with any legs to it. To this
end, it unreels some nice bipartisan quacking from out of the mouths
of these
two guys
:


You've got Bush who's
already commander in chief, and has deployed military forces in a
successful way, and has proven what he's willing to do,” said
Bill Dal Col, a Republican political consultant. “And you've
got somebody who was in the military 30 years ago, different time,
different era. What he did in Vietnam does not play out to what he
has to do on the world stage now.


Some Democrats agreed. “This
election is not going to be about the military, or the lack of
military record of the president
, but his performance in handling
Iraq and leading the country in a time of uncertainty,” said
Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster, who is not working for a
presidential candidate.


Who are you people? Are you even aware of what it is you
are saying?


Over the past three years, this President has waged wars against
two distant foreign lands, at least one of which is increasingly regarded as
having been initiated on highly
dubious grounds
. Lest we forget, he tried to make it a trifecta by sending us into the jungles of the Philippines — as those of us
with good
geopolitical memories
can attest.


To this end, he has stretched
the regular army
to its limits, yanked
National Guardsmen and Reservists
from their homes and jobs in
order to put
them in harms way
, hammered stop-loss
orders down on their heads
so that they couldn't even go home if
they wanted to, and hidden their coffins from view when the
unluckiest
of them
are flown back home to the families they'll never know
again.


In the meantime, he has his troops preparing
for combat operations
in one country, and is rumored to be
contemplating
a very nasty incursion
into yet another (or even two others, if
this
spot
heats up again). All the while doing so, he has been slowly
and deliberately
strangling
veterans' benefits
in their cribs.


To add insult to injury, the guy has a penchant for making his
public
appearances in military garb
. In fact, he clearly loves playing
soldier
for the cameras. You can damn well bet that a good chunk
of the general public is interested in knowing more about the
role he played as an actual soldier — in
a time of war, no less
.


This is very serious business. We are not talking about some poor,
wretched soul who saw enough of all the death, grime, bloodshed, and
hypocricy of a rich man's war and walked away for his conscience's
sake. George W. Bush was one of those rich men; he got one of
the easiest,
cushiest, least dangerous assignments
any young man could get
during that time, and by all accounts couldn't even be bothered to
hack that.


Less connected American soldiers are beginning
to go AWOL
from Iraq even now; you can be sure that more of them
are seriously
contemplating it
. How can the military justify coming down on
them if their President — their Commander in Chief — did
exactly the same thing when faced with lesser difficulties?


Dammit, we need to know this. We have a right to know this.
It is important.


Where was he in 1972?


Wednesday, February 04, 2004
 
Final-freakin'-ly!

Someone finally managed to catch the Lieberman campaign while it was still sleeping in its coffin and drive a stake through its heart. No longer will it lurk in the shadows and corners, sucking the life out of the other Democratic candidates at every turn:

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman withdrew from the presidential race last night after failing to win a single state yesterday, ending the candidacy of a career-long public servant who rose from Connecticut's state Legislature in 1970 to become his party's vice presidential candidate in the disputed 2000 election.


In his attempt to run for the top of the ticket in 2004, Lieberman, 61, sought to claim the political middle ground but never connected with Democratic primary voters.


...


From the campaign's start, Lieberman adhered to a pro-Iraq war, pro-tax cuts platform that failed to resonate among Democratic primary voters. Even candidates who voted in favor of the war — Edwards and Kerry — were critical of Bush's war effort.


“Lieberman basically made himself the Republican in the race,” said political scientist Donald Greenburg of Fairfield University in Connecticut ...



“Damn! He's gonna ask for his T-shirts back, isn't he?”
Liebermaniacs suck up a last dose of “Joe-mentum” for the road.


A word to the wise, Joe: Taking a pro-Iraq War/pro-tax cuts position is more widely recognised as the Republican Party platform. So is accusing the Democrats of waging class warfare, by the way. These are not so popular notions with most Democrats these days ... especially those who tend to turn out for primaries and caucuses.


Now maybe if we all clap our hands together and shout “I do believe in Dennis Kucinich! I do! I do!” enough times, he might just go away, too.


 
The Weeping Ghost Of Harry Truman

I never had any thought that
when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak
and dagger operations.”


Former-President
Harry Truman
, 1963


They [the
CIA]
spend billions of dollars on stirring up trouble so
they'll have something to report on. They've become ... it's become a
government all of its own and all secret. They don't have to account
to anybody.”


Former
President Harry Truman
, 1973


When Harry Truman first
created the CIA in 1947
, he imagined it as a sort of an
apolitical, almost academic, clearing house of information. He
recognized that all the intelligence arms of the competing military
and civilian agencies had their often mutually antagonistic agendas;
a single coordinating agency, he reasoned, should be able to provide
the President with the highest quality — and
least filtered
— information available.


Truman also demanded that the new agency be mandated to keep its
eyes and ears firmly fixed on the landscape outside the United
States. He had seen the distortive
effects
that domestic spy agencies (such as the Gestapo
and KGB) would
have on a society, and he wanted none of it for America.


As such, the agency's domestic activities were always intended to
be extremely limited, and it was forbidden
outright
from engaging in law enforcement activity of any kind.


The small, tight information coordinating agency Harry Truman
envisioned is, of course, a far cry from the CIA we know and love
today. Foreign
and domestic
abuses of The Company's mandate have
become
the stuff
of legend
over the
course of its 57-year history
, many of which have had far-ranging
negative consequences
for the nation as a whole.


Through it all, though, the CIA's official mandate against domestic law
enforcement has wisely stood the test of time.


... Until now, that is. Representative
Carolyn Maloney
(D-NY) has sponsored a bill which effectively
removes that distinction. Section
23 (a) is the relevant portion
:



  1. Upon request of the head of State or local law enforcement
    agency, the Director of Central Intelligence may detail any employee
    within the Central Intelligence Agency to that State or local law
    enforcement agency on a nonreimbursable basis; and


  2. Subject to the approval of the Director of Central
    Intelligence, the head of a State or local law enforcement agency
    may detail any employee of that State or local law enforcement
    agency to the Central Intelligence Agency on a reimbursable basis.



Sure, it doesn't say precisely that the CIA can start
arresting people, but it does place them shoulder-to-shoulder with
those who will. It also provides whole new breeding grounds for the CIA to
cherry pick its next generation of domestic informants.


To use the parlance of computer science, this little piece of
legal code is known as an exploit
— or perhaps “back
door
” would be more appropriate, since it's placement is
deliberate.


Computer hackers are extremely adept at using exploits to gain
access to areas they have no business lurking around. As social
hackers, the CIA will no doubt rampage
like a horde of mongols
through this legal loophole in exactly
the same way.


Amazingly, Rep. Maloney is considered by most to be a fairly
liberal Democrat
, with somewhat libertarian leanings (although she did recently vote in favor of implementing a nationwide ID card system). Since 1994, she has
also been
a leader
in the movement to declassify CIA documents related to
its recruitment
and protection of “ex”-Nazis
during the Cold War era.


Maloney wants us to believe that the only effect of the new law
(if passed) would be to allow
better “sharing of information” between the CIA and law
enforcement
. Perhaps she actually believes that line herself.
Judging from her previous experience with The Company, however, you'd
think she'd know better.


Just go ask Harry; he knows exactly how they work.


Tuesday, February 03, 2004
 
Thirty Years Ago, And Four Years Late

The question of whether or not our President was a yella-bellied deserter back in the Seventies has finally been picked up by a newspaper with a circulation greater that 10,000. It's the Washington Post, bless 'em — and even then, they're holding it up for observation very, very delicately with two heavily-gloved fingers, like it was some fresh piece of doggy doo left in the marigolds by their neighbor's beagle.


Still, it's nice that someone in the rarified world of the mainstream media decided to come down off the mountain and flesh out the story for us proles. One beef though, guys: it would have been nice if you'd have dug a little more into this story ... oh, I dunno ... four years ago or so.


There's actually two pieces in today's Post about it. The first one is the actual article — that is, it's available in the “dead tree” edition of the paper:


According to the records, Bush had been instructed to report to William Turnipseed, an officer in the Montgomery unit. “Had he reported in, I would have had some recall and I do not,” Turnipseed, a retired brigadier general, told the Globe in 2000. “I had been in Texas, done my flight training there. If we had a first lieutenant from Texas, I would have remembered.”


White House communications director Dan Bartlett said yesterday that although no official record has been found, “obviously, you don't get an honorable discharge unless you receive the required points for annual service.” He said Bush “specifically remembers” performing some of his duties in Alabama. Bartlett also provided a news clipping from 2000 quoting friends of Bush's from the Alabama Senate campaign saying they recalled Bush leaving for Guard duty on occasion.


Another article (which I suspect is only available in the electronic edition) has this point to add:


But the issue of whether Bush actually shirked his military duties in 1972, when he transferred to an Alabama unit, is murkier. There do not appear to be any records of his service there.


Well, that settles it.


True, his commanding officer doesn't remember ever seeing Dubya's sorry ass hauling itself around the base, and there's no actual record of his activities available for the time in question ... but he's sure he remembers hanging out there for a while, and his 'Bama drinking buddies all recall watching him drive off in the general direction of the base a couple of times.


Besides, this Turnipseed character's got to be a pretty creaky old coot by now, right? His memory's no good as it is. As for those military records — well, everybody knows how much the military hates dicking around with paperwork.


It's obvious. I think we have to trust the President and his drinking buddies on this one, don't you? After all, where would we be today if it weren't for them?


 
Boobies

You may think I'm reading a little too much into this incident here, but hasn't anyone else noticed the rather crude racial implications of the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake imbroglio?


Here we have the image of a black woman being effectively stripped on national television by a young white guy.


And not just any national television event, but one of the most watched events of the year.


And the guy making the play at second base wasn't just any ol' white guy, but practically the Aryan ideal of a white guy.


What The Act represents, then, is not so much a sexually obscene event than it is a socially obscene one. Whether or not we as Americans are still too hung up on boobies is irrelevent compared to the fact that they are still regarded as highly personal objects belonging to the woman who owns them. Timberlake's move was a clear denial of that fact.


It doesn't matter if Timberlake did it on purpose or not. In fact, my guess is that it was scripted, and they were both just doing as they were told. Still, the act was what it was; and it was clearly designed to look like a degrading moment for Jackson. Discovering that it was deliberately arranged would simply expand the amount of people worthy of condemnation for being a part of it.


If you do think I'm reading too much into this, then try to imagine the event happening if someone like Britney Spears were the singer. Frankly, I doubt anyone along the MTV/Viacom power axis would allow a thing like that to go down, no matter how many girls she's kissed in public.


 
Dick Cheney Versus Gravity

History has issued a direct challenge to the Dick
Cheney
wing of the White House; and, judging from the clarity of the message, I'd say
that history
is pretty damn pissed
.


It's never a good sign for conservatives when the
dialectic
lines up so clearly and concisely against them.


THESIS:


The former chief US weapons
inspector has questioned the abilities of the intelligence services
after failing to find illicit arms in Iraq.


David Kay said in a US radio
interview that he thought the CIA owed the president an
explanation
for warnings about the threat Iraq posed.


ANTITHESIS:


According to former Bush officials,
all defence and intelligence sources, senior administration figures
created a shadow agency of Pentagon analysts staffed mainly by
ideological amateurs to compete with the CIA and its military
counterpart, the Defence Intelligence Agency
.


The agency, called the Office of
Special Plans (OSP), was set up by the defence secretary, Donald
Rumsfeld, to second-guess CIA information and operated under the
patronage of hardline conservatives in the top rungs of the
administration, the Pentagon and at the White House, including
Vice-President Dick Cheney.


The ideologically driven network
functioned like a shadow government, much of it off the official
payroll and beyond congressional oversight. But it proved powerful
enough to prevail
in a struggle with the State Department and the
CIA by establishing a justification for war.


SYNTHESIS:


What went wrong with intelligence
on Iraq will never be known unless the inquiry proposed by President
Bush examines secret intelligence efforts led by Vice
President Dick Cheney and Pentagon hawks, current and former U.S
officials said Monday.


...


The officials, who spoke on
condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue,
didn't dispute that the CIA failed to accurately assess the state of
Iraq's weapons programs. But they said that the intelligence efforts
led by Cheney magnified the errors through exaggeration,
oversights and mistaken deductions
.


What is going on here on the administration's part is an attempt
to create a brand-new narrative out of whole cloth. To a sane person,
their attempt is a ridiculous one, since its obvious that this
narrative is completely at odds with the information we already know
— and have known for a long time.


The people who are trying to promote this narrative are, while not
insane per se, clearly in a delusional condition. Their
delusion is not that they
were right all along
, but rather that they can make
themselves right by controlling the direction of the media
conversation. In effect, they
are trying to hide the antithesis from us
.


And if there's no antithesis, there can be no synthesis, right?


Ummmm ... yes, but ...


Several times in the year or so leading up to the war, a story
would surface in the media
outlining the professional
intelligence community's doubts about the
extent of Iraq's destructive ambitions
. At the time, the stories never had
much “legs” by themselves, probably because they ran
against the grain of conventional media wisdom concerning Iraq.


Still, the
stories do exist
, and are easily retrievable to anyone with a
good memory and an
internet connection
. Taken as one, the stories do
not by any means tell
of a unified front in the intelligence
community; but together
they do tell us
quite a bit about how extremely
conflicted
those in
the know actually were
about the quality
of the various claims
being bandied
about
concerning the “Saddam-as-Dr.-Doom” thesis.


It is also a widely known fact that the so-called “Office of
Special Plans” (OSP) at the Pentagon was created as a way to
short-circuit
these doubters
, the implication always being that it was doing so
in order to promote
a pro-war agenda
.


But ever since David
Kay
returned from Iraq crying
“uncle” at the top of his lungs
, we are being asked
to swallow
the story
that the Bush Administration only went to war (as a
last resort, mind you) because of faulty
evidence presented by the CIA
. Meanwhile, the OSP has been
quietly slipped from view, like it was never more than some weekly
neocon tea and sandwiches debating society.


It's also worth pointing out that, as a group of powerful people
secretly organized to promote a hidden goal, the existence of the
Office of Strategic Plans qualifies as a classic
example of a conspiracy in action
.


Not just a conspiracy theory, mind you, but an actual, bona
fide
conspiracy.



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